The Fourth Reich?

The European Union has a demonstrated record of corruption, most recently in its statistical agency. Even though it has a 'parliament' which sits in Strasbourg, its bureaucracy, based hundreds of miles away in Brussels, is notably endowed with arbitrary power.

 

The Brussels Eurocrats are in charge of the minutiae of rules affecting countless commercial interests. Merely by changing one element of a standard for a certain product, a Eurocrat can sway markets in favor of one firm or country, and the process will have no transparency. In other words, a recipe for corruption has been created.

 

Few Europeans could name the Euro—MP who represents them in Strasbourg, precisely because the European Parliament rarely does anything which directly affects them. Even fewer could name the Eurocrat in Brussels who changes a rule benefiting Company A to the tune of hundreds of millions of Euros, precisely because the Eurocrats operate in deliberate obscurity.

 

All of these EU officials are well—paid, however. Beyond their handsome salaries and undemanding hours, they enjoy a range of perquisites entitling them to transportation allowances (taxis, not trolleys, please), dining allowances (yummm...four star cuisine in Brussels and Strasbourg!), per diem allowances, and more. Always more.

 

It is a sweet deal for everyone but the taxpayer.

 

The only potential fly in the ointment is unwelcome scrutiny. The virtual lack of checks and balances in the EU structure means that it falls to outsiders — mostly journalists — to do the digging.

 

Not to worry. The Eurocrats know how to handle them. Take a look at the case of Hans—Martin Tillack, the Brussels correspondent for Germany's Stern magazine. The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that

 

Police arrested a leading investigative journalist yesterday on the orders of the European Union, seizing his computers, address books and archive of files in a move that stunned Euro—MPs....

"They asked me to tell them who my sources were. I replied that was something I would never do. Now they have all my sensitive files, so I suppose they'll find out anyway," he said last night.

"The police said I was lucky I wasn't in Burma or central Africa, where journalists get the real treatment," he added.

Eurocrats are noted for the lack of a sense of humor or irony, so it probably went unnoticed that the agency responsible for Herr Tillack's arrest was the EU—s very own anti—fraud office, the improbably acronymed OLAF.

 

Herr Tillack is no anti—EU fanatic. He is a self—described 'pro—European federalist.' I suppose that makes him all the more dangerous, since he actually believes that EU institutions should be made to run cleanly and efficiently, serving the citizens, rather than the interests of the governing class in Brussels and Strasbourg. This is true subversion, of the worst sort. But OLAF is on top of the threat, so no worry need disturb the dining trade at the best restaurants tonight.

 

What is the proper name for a government which cozies up to major companies, extracting tribute from them in return for lucrative opportunities showered upon them? A government which makes arbitrary decisions insulated from public accountability? A government which ruthlessly squashes dissent and any attempts to hold it accountable? A government which creates a pampered class of government insiders who 'guide' and 'direct' the lives of its subjects without democratic oversight?

 

Europe has previous experience with such governments. Too bad its peoples refuse to learn from their past.

The European Union has a demonstrated record of corruption, most recently in its statistical agency. Even though it has a 'parliament' which sits in Strasbourg, its bureaucracy, based hundreds of miles away in Brussels, is notably endowed with arbitrary power.

 

The Brussels Eurocrats are in charge of the minutiae of rules affecting countless commercial interests. Merely by changing one element of a standard for a certain product, a Eurocrat can sway markets in favor of one firm or country, and the process will have no transparency. In other words, a recipe for corruption has been created.

 

Few Europeans could name the Euro—MP who represents them in Strasbourg, precisely because the European Parliament rarely does anything which directly affects them. Even fewer could name the Eurocrat in Brussels who changes a rule benefiting Company A to the tune of hundreds of millions of Euros, precisely because the Eurocrats operate in deliberate obscurity.

 

All of these EU officials are well—paid, however. Beyond their handsome salaries and undemanding hours, they enjoy a range of perquisites entitling them to transportation allowances (taxis, not trolleys, please), dining allowances (yummm...four star cuisine in Brussels and Strasbourg!), per diem allowances, and more. Always more.

 

It is a sweet deal for everyone but the taxpayer.

 

The only potential fly in the ointment is unwelcome scrutiny. The virtual lack of checks and balances in the EU structure means that it falls to outsiders — mostly journalists — to do the digging.

 

Not to worry. The Eurocrats know how to handle them. Take a look at the case of Hans—Martin Tillack, the Brussels correspondent for Germany's Stern magazine. The UK's Daily Telegraph reports that

 

Police arrested a leading investigative journalist yesterday on the orders of the European Union, seizing his computers, address books and archive of files in a move that stunned Euro—MPs....

"They asked me to tell them who my sources were. I replied that was something I would never do. Now they have all my sensitive files, so I suppose they'll find out anyway," he said last night.

"The police said I was lucky I wasn't in Burma or central Africa, where journalists get the real treatment," he added.

Eurocrats are noted for the lack of a sense of humor or irony, so it probably went unnoticed that the agency responsible for Herr Tillack's arrest was the EU—s very own anti—fraud office, the improbably acronymed OLAF.

 

Herr Tillack is no anti—EU fanatic. He is a self—described 'pro—European federalist.' I suppose that makes him all the more dangerous, since he actually believes that EU institutions should be made to run cleanly and efficiently, serving the citizens, rather than the interests of the governing class in Brussels and Strasbourg. This is true subversion, of the worst sort. But OLAF is on top of the threat, so no worry need disturb the dining trade at the best restaurants tonight.

 

What is the proper name for a government which cozies up to major companies, extracting tribute from them in return for lucrative opportunities showered upon them? A government which makes arbitrary decisions insulated from public accountability? A government which ruthlessly squashes dissent and any attempts to hold it accountable? A government which creates a pampered class of government insiders who 'guide' and 'direct' the lives of its subjects without democratic oversight?

 

Europe has previous experience with such governments. Too bad its peoples refuse to learn from their past.